This is my personal experience with stopping birth control, why I started in the first place and the side effects.
First and foremost, I want to start out this post by saying I am not a doctor (nor do I play one on tv). I’m a blogger, sharing my experience in hopes of inspiring other females to make informed decisions in regards to their body. I am all for the right to choose when it comes to birth control methods. The hormonal pill is just one of many, and I wanted to write this post to not only share my experience on the pill, but talk about other methods.
Like many girls, my doctor put me on birth control because my menstrual cycles were just awful. They came on time each month, but brought along with it horrible cramping, heavy flow and a bunch of other bs that I’m sure you can relate to. I remember one day in middle school I had to go home early because my flow was so heavy it leaked through my jeans. I also remember not being able to participate in P.E.
At 14, a trip to the gynecologist and a pelvic exam later, I left the office with a prescription for the pill. I quickly filled that bad boy with the hopes it would do its magic immediately. And it sure did.
Screw You Periods
The birth control pill regulated my periods immediately. No more painful periods, no more PMS. I still had acne though go figure (more about that later). On the pill, you pop these little yellow guys for most of the month, and then when it’s time for your period you pop the placebo pills for the week. Screw you bad periods.
For the first time in a long time I felt normal. I felt like I could go to school again during my period. And it’s that feeling that kept me on birth control for way longer than I should have.
According to an article by Dr. Sara Gottfried (a powerful resource for hormonal imbalances!) birth control pills work by using synthetic versions of estrogen and progesterone to prevent ovulation, basically tricking the body into not having a normal monthly cycle. What was once used only as protection against pregnancy is now used for acne, PCOS, painful periods, you name it.
Hello Panic Attacks
I remained on birth control through high school and into my first year in college. Funny thing started happening around my first year in college, I started having severe panic attacks. They were so bad, I spent a few days in a behavioral clinic. Like the hormone issue, I was prescribed a pill and sent on my way. Learn more about my experience with panic disorder here.
It wasn’t until my last year in community college that I started to get interested in natural health and wellness. It would be a few years until I was introduced to paleo, but I started with an interest in hormones.
I was still suffering with acne, severe PMS, fatigue, hair loss, anxiety, and the list goes on. I saw countless doctors who chalked it up to the anxiety. One doctor ordered a full hormone panel and it really started me down the path to healing. My progesterone levels were in the gutter. Almost non-existent. Even if you have normal levels of progesterone, but high estrogen, you have a hormonal imbalance. What’s crazy to me is the term Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome never came up until my later 20’s. I had some doctors tell me I was too skinny for PCOS, while some said I “probably” had it. Learn more about the way I treated my PCOS naturally.
Low progesterone is very common in women with PCOS. It’s also pretty common when you are stressed.
According to this article on healthywomen.org, some of the symptoms of low progesterone include anxiety or depression, heavy bleeding, weight gain, PMS and many more symptoms. This sure sounds familiar.
Why Stopping Birth Control is Important
At 25 I finally decided to get off the pill, almost 11 years after I started it. Almost immediately the bs periods returned.
At this point I connected with a naturopath who suggested I start using natural progesterone cream to increase my progesterone levels. Now a little disclaimer here: I used the cream without the supervision of a doctor or functional practitioner. I highly recommend if you decide to go down this path to team up with a doctor who can support you and monitor your dosage. The cream is only meant to supplement.
I started using the progesterone cream and like magic, my periods were shorter and less heavy. I stopped using the cream after maybe a year or so.
The cream was only used again after a period of heavy stress caused my menstrual cycle to start and not stop. When you are under periods of stress, progesterone is one of the first hormones borrowed to make cortisol. I learned that the hard way.
How do I Get Hormonal Balance?
I’ve been off of the cream for a few years now, and my progesterone levels have stayed consistent, and so have my periods. They are much shorter and less heavy. But I still deal with a lot of hormonal imbalance issues.
In the fall of 2017 I saw a functional medical doctor who did a full panel with a stool test, and diagnosed me with Hashimotos Thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease that attacks the thyroid. So far my thyroid is still functioning normally.
More is being understood now about the pill – gut connection, and how it can lead to leaky gut. This is of the main contributing factors to Hashimotos. According to this article from wellandgood.com, the pill can alter your microbiome and impact the hormone receptors in your digestive tract. The gut is also where most of your serotonin is made, or the feel good hormone. That explains the panic attacks and depression.
I am now working with a functional medical doctor to address the underlying issues of my symptoms, including healing my gut. I can’t exactly pinpoint if the pill cased the gut issues, but I’m pretty sure they opened the door.
Other Methods of Birth Control
There are many different methods of birth control for those trying to avoid unwanted pregnancy:
- Abstinence – I’m sure you know what that is
- Fertility Awareness – this method involves paying attention to certain body changes and tracking when the body is most fertile.
- Pull Out Method – Not 100% reliable
For those seeking methods to address other issues such as PCOS, acne, heavy periods or other hormonal imbalance issues, work with a functional medical practitioner who will address the body as a whole. Many women are put on the pill before going this route. That was the case for me. The Institute for Functional Medicine has a great directory on their site.
Again, this post is meant only as an avenue to share my experience and why stopping birth control was important to me. I am not a medical professional, and you should work with your doctor in determining what works best for you. But I encourage you to ask questions, to seek alternatives. I encourage you to be an advocate for your health and wellness.